Creating Peace of Mind: An Interview with Matt Kaplan, PeaceLove Foundation Co-Founder and CEO

Are you ready to unleash your creativity? Today marks the official launch of the Peace of Mind Charm Bangle and we’re excited to share an interview with Matt Kaplan, Co-Founder and CEO of PeaceLove Foundation, with our amazing fans. Matt discusses the history of PeaceLove Foundation and how he hopes the Peace of Mind Charm Bangle helps change the face of mental illness.

alex-and-ani-peacelove-jeff-sparr-matt-kaplan-1
Matt Kaplan, PeaceLove Foundation Co-Founder and CEO, and Jeff Sparr, PeaceLove Foundation Co-Founder.

_____

How was PeaceLove Foundation born and what is its mission?

PeaceLove Co-Founder, Jeff Sparr, is a father, husband, mental health advocate, teacher, and self-taught artist. Above all, Jeff is a survivor, battling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) much of his life.

Desperate for an outlet to relieve his mental anguish, Sparr decided on a whim to buy some art supplies and try his hand at painting. He found that painting dramatically subdued the symptoms of his OCD and provided a creative outlet that helped him gain a sense of control. This discovery changed the course of Sparr’s life, and he hasn’t stopped painting since.

From that simple realization, my cousin, Jeff Sparr, and I set out to help millions of individuals and families impacted by mental health disorders create peace of mind. Today, PeaceLove is a movement of hope and support for society to rally behind. Our work is built on the belief that creative expression transforms and heals. Since 2009, PeaceLove has provided life-changing arts programs to over 13,000 individuals in need.

How did the relationship between PeaceLove Foundation and Alex and Ani/Charity by Design (CBD) begin?

Jeff Sparr was invited to share his story at a TEDx event in Providence, RI. Jeff shared the stage with an enlightened and inspiring thought leader by the name of Dennis Rebelo, Alex and Ani’s Chief Education Officer. As fate would have it after the event a dialogue sparked between Jeff, myself, and Dennis surrounding PeaceLove’s dream to build a symbol of hope and acceptance for society to rally behind. An immediate bond and friendship was formed. Dennis introduced us to Nicki Maher, Vice President of Charity by Design, and her team and they whole-heartedly believed in the need to inspire conversations of awareness and hope. During our very first chat in Nicki’s office, she stood up and declared “We all know a loved one who is struggling intimately, so why isn’t it ok to talk about it, that’s not right!” We couldn’t agree more and thanks to CBD’s vision, the Peace of Mind bangle will be a catalyst to starting those conversations.

alex-and-ani-peacelove-2
Members of our Charity by Design team at the PeaceLove Studios grand opening event celebrating their move into a new space at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, RI.

What was the process of designing the charm with Carolyn and the CBD team like?

The collaboration between Carolyn, CBD, and PeaceLove’s creative team was effortless. We all share a similar passion for creativity and artistic expression, and how sharing a creative voice can empower and transform. PeaceLove shared countless stories of individuals that had been impacted by our programs and who shared that their “lives had been changed” or that they “now knew hope.” Together we wanted the bangle to embody the experience that was being created in the community and also was authentic to our missions. The paint splatter design projected self-expression, made us all smile, and was easily our favorite.

The charm features the phrase “Create Peace of Mind.” What does this mean to you?

Peace of mind is a state that everyone seeks to find throughout their day. This feeling can be elusive as we often put our mental health on the back burner, literally out of sight, out of mind. For individuals and families wrestling with mental health disorders, peace of mind can be so painfully difficult to achieve.

To PeaceLove, “Create Peace of Mind” means embracing a healthy artistic outlet and expressing one’s self authentically, imaginatively, collaboratively and spontaneously. Through creating, we find personal fulfillment, emotional healing and understanding of self and others. Utilizing creative expression to facilitate and promote healthy practices of emotional self-care and mental wellness is for anyone and everyone, no matter what challenges we might face.

alex-and-ani-peacelove-1
The crowd inside PeaceLove Studios during their grand opening event.

What do you hope the Peace of Mind charm will do for PeaceLove Foundation and mental illness awareness?

The design is bold, colorful, and we think it’s really cool. Our hope is that the charm, when noticed, ignites a conversation. By wearing the bangle, we hope that individuals find the courage to share their connection to mental health in a safe, celebratory way. We hope that each person wearing the bangle becomes an ambassador embracing the fact that it’s OK to talk about mental health and uses this as an opportunity to share advice, experiences, or support. We hope that the bangle pioneers new opportunities for organizations and individuals to participate in supporting mental health, and inspires other influencers to join our movement. Lastly, and most importantly, by simply purchasing the bangle you will directly provide life-changing art experiences to individuals in need.

We are truly blessed and humbled to have Alex and Ani’s Charity by Design as a partner and friend as we embark on transforming the dialogue surrounding mental health!

_____

Want to help others unleash their creativity? Through December 2014, 20% of proceeds received by Alex and Ani from selling the Peace of Mind Charm, with a minimum donation of $20,000, will be donated to the PeaceLove Foundation, a creative voice for mental illness, which offers life-changing expressive arts workshops to communities in need. PeaceLove is the first symbol of hope and support for the millions impacted by mental illness.

Shop the Peace of Mind Charm Bangle.

alex-and-ani-peacelove-14

This post was written by Brendon Cunha